Diet Recommendations For Cats With Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease can make the cat miserable and challenge their veterinarian to find a treatment protocol that works.  Cats with this disease suffer an inflammatory reaction in the walls of their intestines that causes vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss.  These cats seem painful when I palpate their abdomens.  The inflammation occurs when the cat develops antibodies -an allergic reaction – to their food.  Specifically, the protein source is usually what gets them.

Here are my suggestions for feeding a cat with inflammatory bowel disease:

I start with Hill’s zd ULTRA Allergen-Free diet combined with steroid therapy.  According to the company’s website, “Hill’s Hydrolyzed Protein Systems is a process that eliminates animal intact proteins and significantly reduces the possibility of an adverse reaction to food.”   This means the protein is broken down into a low molecular weight so the cat’s immune system cannot detect it.  Most of the cats I put on this diet do well – they eat it (that’s a key point) and their symptoms resolve.  Once the cat is stable, I add in the zd Low allergen which comes in a dry form.

Unfortunately, there is a small subset of my patients who still experience problems, even on zd Ultra without any other foods or treats.  It seems to happen in cats allergic to poultry products.  Since zd ULTRA is made from chicken livers, I don’t think that hydrolyzing the protein is hypoallergenic enough for these cats.  I switch to IVD rabbit, duck or venison diets knowing that over time, the cat will probably become allergic to the protein in these products as well.  In my experience, the cat gets 6 to 12 months on a new protein before the clinical signs return and I switch to a new protein source.   

One other caveat for zd, it is not recommended for growing kittens or cats on urinary acidifiers. 

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.